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Alternative & Indie - Released March 6, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 8, 1999 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 15, 2019 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 24, 2005 | Matador

Considering the seemingly plainspoken title of his third solo album, plus the extracurricular knowledge that the former Pavement leader has settled down and is a first-time father, it would be easy to assume that Face the Truth is where Stephen Malkmus finally turns into a self-conscious adult, ironing out the kinks in his music, tempering his humor, and starts making classic rock records for Mojo readers. Frankly, such a leap backward toward respectability doesn't seem all that far-fetched in light of the meandering, monochromatic Pig Lib, which suggested that Malkmus was standing on the verge of becoming a modern-day Tony McPhee, churning out guitar jams to an ever more selective audience. Knee-jerk assumptions shouldn't always be trusted, however, since Face the Truth isn't plain or predictable at all: it's a vibrant return to form. Malkmus is making records as he did in the heyday of Pavement, treating the Jicks as a backing band that can contribute a little in the studio but is designed for the stage. He lays down most of the instrumental tracks himself, overdubs acoustic guitars, banjos, and sitars, dabbles in synths, and plays around with the mixes so they bend, twist, slur, and suddenly explode. Only on the misleading first single, "Post-Paint Boy" -- a sly swipe at modern art -- does he sound as conventional as he did on Pig Lib, but it's sharper than most of that record, and it acts as a good anchor to this gleefully excessive album. Malkmus is driven by the same mischievous spirit that fueled his first solo album, but where that record had a proudly impish, even silly, bent, Face the Truth has an air of mystery. It's not so much that Malkmus is inscrutable -- a criticism often lazily leveled against him -- but that he's made the album with the sole desire of amusing himself, indulging his whims in a way reminiscent of the wild detours of Wowee Zowee. But Face the Truth isn't just tighter than that album -- its 40 minutes zoom by -- it's concentrated, with each track packed until it's ready to burst. Yet for as indulgent as the oversaturated mixes are, they're never overstuffed: each instrument, each overdub, each blip and squawk is there for a reason, and no song, not even the epic eight-minute sprawl of "No More Shoes," lasts longer than necessary. One of Malkmus' greatest gifts as a record-maker has been his arrangements, which are initially bewilderingly dense, but they slowly unveil to revealing their intricacies so that on repeated plays it's easy to marvel at how the music crests and peaks. Those loose yet exacting arrangements were missing on the straight and narrow Pig Lib, but he's returned to that strength here while marrying it to a greater sense of sonic adventure, and it makes Face the Truth quite thrilling and rewarding. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 18, 2003 | Matador

Stephen Malkmus wanted to bill his first solo album to the Jicks but was persuaded by Matador to release it under his name. As it turns out, the delay in billing was fortuitous, since Pig Lib, Malkmus' second solo effort and the first to share a co-billing with the Jicks, sounds much more like the work of a band than its predecessor. Which, to be honest, is a bit of a mixed blessing, since this record has all the attributes and trapping of a group who feel comfortable playing together. Unlike the ramshackle crew of Pavement, who never could walk a straight line, the Jicks easily follow his every whim, whether it's on winding guitar jams or breezy, mid-tempo numbers. This is likely what Malkmus was seeking in a band, since the essential tone, tenor, and aesthetic of his music hasn't changed since he disbanded Pavement. What has changed is the feel. No longer is it sprawling, messy, and unpredictable; it's relaxed, meandering, and comfortable. Strangely enough, the jokiness and irrepressibly giddy spirit of the debut have been subdued completely, replaced by a hazy seriousness spiked occasionally by Malkmus' notoriously wry wit, and even that has been tempered slightly, since the words and, to a lesser extent, the songcraft have taken a backseat to playing with the band. Now that he has a band he wants to play with, he jams, finally making the Groundhogs and Lobby Lloyd tribute he's been threatening for years. And it's not bad. But, apart from the wonderfully elastic, surprising "Us," it doesn't offer anything striking or resonant. True, it breathes more than either of the last two Pavement records, but only a handful of songs are of the standard of its predecessor: the light, lyrical "Vanessa From Queens," "Animal Midnight" with its brilliantly nonsensical coda, the succinct "Craw Song," and the epic jam "1% of One" (not as good as the versions played on the first Jicks tour, though; much like "The Hexx," it's been streamlined and isn't as nervy as it was live). Pig Lib is hurt by the odd combination of friendly interplay and a deliberate somberness that creates an album at once enjoyable but not particularly captivating. It surely creates the most consistent mood of any Malkmus album, but part of what made him so much fun was his rough edges, jokes, mistakes, thowaways, and indulgent whims, all of which are sadly missing here. [Actually, they've all been exiled to the five-track bonus EP included with the initial pressings of Pig Lib. A jumble of outtakes and live tracks, this is loose, funny, rocking, and poetic, everything that great Malkmus music is -- and it only hammers home what's wrong with the proper album.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 13, 2001 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 18, 2018 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 22, 2011 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 22, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 6, 2014 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 6, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 27, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 22, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 3, 2020 | Adrian Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 15, 2005 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 27, 2020 | Matador